Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
Willie Nelson – vocals, guitar [click here to see more vinyl featuring Willie Nelson]
Paul English – drums
Jody Payne – guitars, mandolin
Bee Spears – bass
Bobbie Nelson – piano
Mickey Raphael – harmonica
Bucky Meadows – guitar
Billy English – drums
1 LP, standard sleeve
Original analog Master tape : YES
Heavy Press : 180g
Record color : black
Speed : 33RPM
Size : 12”
Record Press : RTI
Label : Impex Records
Original Label : Columbia
Recorded January 1975 at Autumn Sound Studios, Garland, Texas
Engineered by Phil York
Produced by Willie Nelson
Remastered by George Marino
Originally released in 1975
Reissued in 2011
Side A :
- Time of the Preacher Man
- Medley Blue Rock Mountain/Red Headed Stranger
- Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
- Red Headed Stranger
- Time of the Preacher Theme
- Just As I Am
Side B :
- O’er The Waves
- Down Yonder
- Can I Sleep In Your Arms
- Remember Me
- Hands On the Wheel
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time - Rated 183/500!
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time - "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" - Rated 309/500!
1000 Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die - Ranked 346
"Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger perhaps is the strangest blockbuster country produced, a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover, told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing. It's defiantly anticommercial and it demands intense concentration -- all reasons why nobody thought it would be a hit, a story related in Chet Flippo's liner notes to the 2000 reissue. It was a phenomenal blockbuster, though, selling millions of copies, establishing Nelson as a superstar recording artist in its own right. For all its success, it still remains a prickly, difficult album, though, making the interspersed concept of Phases and Stages sound shiny in comparison. It's difficult because it's old-fashioned, sounding like a tale told around a cowboy campfire. Now, this all reads well on paper, and there's much to admire in Nelson's intimate gamble, but it's really elusive, as the themes get a little muddled and the tunes themselves are a bit bare. It's undoubtedly distinctive -- and it sounds more distinctive with each passing year -- but it's strictly an intellectual triumph and, after a pair of albums that were musically and intellectually sound, it's a bit of a letdown, no matter how successful it was." AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
“In 1975, with complete artistic control written into his new Columbia Records contract, Willie Neslon enters Autumn Sound, a small Garland, Texas studio, to record a sparely arranged concept album based on the semi-obscure song “Red Headed Stranger”, written by Carl Stutz, a Richmond, VA based radio announcer and Edith Lindeman Calisch, the amusement critic for the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper. The pair was best known for writing “Little Things Mean A Lot,” which was a hit single for the pop star Kitty Kallen back in 1954 and featured on the wildly popular TV show “Your Hit Parade.” Stutz went on to become a high school math teacher.
The song is about a stranger who rides into a town one day on his “raging black stallion,” still yearning for his late beloved who “lays asleep on the hillside.” He’s “bitter in his sorrow,” and it’s best not to mess with him. His advise is to “wait ’till tomorrow, and maybe he’ll ride on again.” He’s got a bay in tow belonging to his dead love that catches the attention of a “yellow haired Lady,” who befriends him in the bar. He buys her a few drinks and gives her some money. She follows him out and tries to grab the bay. “He shot her so quick they had no time to warn her.”
Nelson constructed a prequel to the song and using country standards written by Eddie Arnold (“I Couldn’t Belive It was True”), Fred Rose (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”), Hank Cochran and others, along with originals, built the story around a fugitive on the run for having killed his wife and her lover. It ends with Bill Callery’s “Hands on the Wheel,” which suggests that in his old age, the stranger has been redeemed. “Now my hand’s on the wheel of something that’s real and I feel like I’m goin’ home.”
Nothing like this had ever been tried in the country genre, and despite Caolumbia’s trepidation, the album went to number one on the Country charts and eventually went gold and double platinum.
If the album was a sculpture, it would be one of those horsey things you’d expect to see on the desks of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. It’s pure Americana.
The spare arrangements for guitars, mandolin, piano, harmonica, bass and drums leave plenty of room for Willie’s voice, which appropriately dominates.
There are musical interludes that move the story along and in a pre-VCR era, this was an album you could put on and create a wide-screen Cinemascope, Technicolor movie in your head as the songs took you through the carefully plotted narrative.
The sonics are superb, with a spaciously laid out, cleanly and naturally rendered instrumental bed, in front of which Nelson’s voice floats. If you love Willie’s voice, and who doesn’t, this is an opportunity to get as close to it as you’ll find on record. It’s even better recorded than on Stardust and while that album of standards is great, this one captures more of the pure essence that is Willie Nelson.
The IMPEX reissue mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound is deluxe in every way: the record is 180g pressed at RTI, the artwork is carefully scanned and reproduced, including the original’s lyric insert, and the paper over cardboard jacket is what you expect for a premium priced reissue. There’s an earlier Columbia/Legacy vinyl edition still out there for half the price: it sounds half as good.
Great late night listening and easy to recommend for both music and sound.” MICHAEL FREMER, MUSICANGLE.COM
AllMusic : 5 / 5 , Discogs : 4,44 / 5